CWF Notes from the Executive Director February 1


CWF continued to be very busy during January.  Here are some highlights below. If there are fish and wildlife issues you would like to discuss, please let me know!

— Suzanne O’Neill   

President Biden places much needed pause on Bureau of Land Management oil and gas lease sales and finalizing Resource Management Plans

The Biden Administration’s pause January 27 on oil and gas leasing on federally-managed public lands provides a necessary opportunity to scrutinize the leasing program. CWF welcomes this pause. Many parcels that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has leased during the past several years have encompassed or overlapped severe winter range, production areas and migration corridors relied upon by big game for their survival. Colorado Parks and Wildlife defines severe winter range as œthat part of the overall range where 90% of the individuals are located when the annual snowpack is at its maximum and/or temperatures are at a minimum in the two worst winters out of 10. In addition, parcels in priority greater sage grouse habitat have been leased or offered for lease after the former administration tried to set aside the 2015 grouse conservation plans. Further, in some areas of Colorado, BLM has leased or offered parcels that have low oil and gas development potential but feature important wildlife values such as bighorn sheep severe winter range and production (birthing areas).

CWF also is pleased that the Administration paused finalizing BLM resource management plans. CWF has worked with others  for several years toward achieving a good plan for iconic South Park. The draft plan issued in June 2019 was fairly good but numerous improvements should be made. Now we have a great opportunity to move these recommended improvements forward for serious consideration.

Update re bighorn sheep severe winter range parcel in East Vail

On February 2 the Vail Town Council decided not to condemn the parcel in East Vail owned by Vail Resorts that is integral to the bighorn sheep herd’s very small severe winter range on a 5-2 vote. Vail Resorts has declined to sell the parcel to the Town of Vail and, therefore, can decide to develop this Booth Heights parcel in the future. This is unfortunate to say the least. A shame! The Town had worked diligently to locate an alternative site for housing so that the Booth Heights parcel would not be developed. Now the developer will build housing on the new alternative site but as stated above Vail Resorts retains its full ownership and development rights to the Booth Heights parcel. This means the “alternative site”  has become simply an additional site. CWF submitted a written comment letter on February 1  that focused on the science, as we had done previously at each stage of the developer’s quest during 2019 for approval of a housing project on the Booth Heights parcel.

30 x 30

The Biden Administration issued pledged to protect 30 percent of the lands and waters of the United States by 2030.  Here in Colorado, CWF  and several others are working toward what we think would be viable goals. In our view, goals should not be confined to protection but include conservation and restoration. This does not mean that anyone thinks we would start from scratch but instead would value areas that already are a good start toward reaching 30 x 30. We appreciate NWF ‘s visioning and thoughtful work to identify various conservation mechanisms on a national level. Stay tuned.

Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission adopts rules on wildlife protection effective January 15, 2021

During 2020 CWF and others worked diligently to craft our recommendations for wildlife protections.

Now that the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s wildlife rulemaking is final, effective January 15 – with quite a good outcome after all the hard work,the next Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission rulemaking is land reclamation after development of a site. We shall participate in this rulemaking as well because elk, bighorn sheep and pronghorn rely upon good quality “green wave” of vegetation in spring for nutrition, and face challenges through drought, climate change, and development. And COGCC will convene a work group to tackle aspects of aquatic buffers that were left hanging.

Recovering America’s Wildlife Act

Early in this session of Congress, CWF will work hard to gain passage of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act. In the last session we all gained 185 bi-partisan House co-sponsors. This time around, we are optimistic. This very important Act would address species of greatest conservation need in each state. For Colorado, they are enumerated in the Colorado State Wildlife Action Plan.

The work to balance wildlife conservation and trails on our public lands in Colorado 

CWF began its work to advocate balance between conservation of sensitive wildlife habitats and the planning and construction of new trails several years ago. We developed the first session on this topic at a Colorado partners in the outdoors conference in 2018. the following year CWF spearheaded drafting a resolution on this topic for the National Wildlife Federation’s annual meeting. Currently, I serve on a master planning steering committee to balance mountain biking trails with wildlife habitat needs in the Highway 285 corridor spanning four counties. Our first stage was habitat assessment and now we approach the next stage of trail proposals in an already fairly dense recreation area. I believe we can gain a satisfactory master plan IF all agree to steer clear of migratory corridors, birthing areas, riparian areas as well as areas inhabited by species of greatest conservation needs under the State Wildlife Action Plan. I shall be watchful and vocal as we consider requested locations for some of the proposed new trails.

If you desire additional information about any of these issues or want to know more about CWF, please email or call me.